The first inning had not been kind to Chicago Cubs starter Randy Wells this season. In his previous 10 starts, Wells had allowed 13 first-inning runs, and it looked like more of the same on Saturday when he allowed the first two men of the game to reach base.
“For a second there I thought, ‘Here we go again,’” Wells said. “I just tried to stay calm and make pitches and I was able to make some key pitches there and get some big outs. It was good. It got me a little fired up and ready to go and I just tried to take it through each inning.”
Wells did just that in the Cubs’ 5-1 victory over the Houston Astros, finally looking like the pitcher the Cubs hoped he would be entering the season. He allowed only one run in six solid innings while giving up five hits and striking out four.
Wells’ return from the disabled list has been anything but an easy journey. On April 4, Wells made his first start of the season and dazzled, tossing six innings of one-run ball. Two days later, Wells was placed on the disabled list with a forearm strain and up until Saturday, he had struggled to regain his top form.
“It’s been a process to get back to where you want to be, battling aches and pains, stuff like that, trying to get healthy,” Wells said. “I was just happy to go out there today and get the ball on the ground a lot more than I have in recent starts and get the team through six innings.”
Cubs manager Mike Quade was thrilled to see Wells get back on track.
“That’s a beautiful thing, isn’t it? Stay hot,” Quade said. “I thought he got the ball up a little bit late in the outing, but that’s understandable, he hasn’t made a lot of pitches. You make decisions for a lot of reasons, but to get him through six with a chance to win throwing as well as he’s been, the way the bullpen’s been, seemed like the right thing to do. If he can build on that, that’d be fantastic.”
Wells said his sinker and slider were working for him most of the day and while his changeup still needed some polish, he felt it was a good start to build on. Wells’ battery mate Geovany Soto said it was only a matter of time before Wells got back in a groove.
“In this game, a lot of it is feel and comfort,” Soto said. “When you go out (with an injury) and try to come back in, it takes you a while to get your momentum going. I think Randy’s been doing a great job and hopefully he can finish the second half strong.”
Soto had been facing some struggles of his own, coming into the game in the midst of a 3-for-20 slump. However, like Wells, Soto delivered on Saturday, getting two big hits -- a solo home run and a key single in the eighth that helped pad the Cubs’ lead.
“For me, right now, I’m just trying to put together a couple good at-bats and try to hit the ball hard,” Soto said. “Try to stay to the middle of the field. I’m kind of pulling right now, but I’ll take whatever I have.”
What the Cubs have right now is a two-game winning streak for only the tenth time all year. With Matt Garza pitching on Sunday, the Cubs will try again for their first three-game winning streak of the season.
“I’d love it,” Quade said about his team going for that ever-elusive third victory. “It’s about that time.”